Category Archives: Force Modernization

Tanks in GPV-2027

According to a February 13 report from Vedomosti’s Ivan Safronov, Russia’s Ground Troops could receive 900 T-14 and T-90M tanks before the current State Armaments Program (GPV) ends in 2027. The article is paywalled, but Bmpd recapped its contents.

Nine hundred — 500 T-14 and 400 T-90M — seems quite an optimistic forecast.

T-90

According to Safronov’s story, a source close to the Russian MOD said there were three contracts between 2017 and 2019 to deliver more than 160 T-90M (Proryv-3) tanks. The first two called for 60 tanks in 2018-2019, of which 10 would be newly built, 50 would be older T-90 tanks modernized to T-90M, and 100 would be T-90A tanks from the inventory improved to T-90M.

However, an industry source said the deliveries slipped because its fire control and target tracking system needed to be finished, and the turret with its dynamic defense — the tank’s main feature — had to be tested.

These issues are supposedly resolved, and the tank is in series production. The MOD should get not less than 15 T-90M tanks in 2020.

A source close to the MOD leadership indicated that President Vladimir Putin wants to renew Russia’s tank inventory over the next five years. Currently, only 50 percent of the Ground Troops’ armored vehicles are “modern” — the lowest indicator of any branch or service of the RF Armed Forces.

Upgrading Russia’s armor will involve both new production and modernization. There may be a contract in 2020 to improve another 100 T-90s to T-90M. Deputy Defense Minister and arms chief Aleksey Krivoruchko has indicated there are 400 T-90s in the Ground Troops that could be upgraded.

State testing of the newest T-14 tank on the Armata chassis is set to begin in 2020. A Vedomosti interlocutor says there could be a state order for 500 T-14s by 2027.

Recall after debuting in 2015, the T-14 was supposed to enter state testing in 2017 but that didn’t happen.

Ground Troops are hoping for 900 T-14 and T-90M tanks to arrive by 2027, but they won’t supplant some 2,000 T-72B3 tanks as the foundation of Russia’s tank inventory, according to military commentator Viktor Murakhovskiy. He adds that the T-72B3 can’t really be considered a “modern” tank without serious modernization.

For those keeping score, the T-72B3 is a 2010 upgrade of the T-72B not really improved since the mid-1980s. The T-72B3M is a 2016 modification adding Relikt reactive armor, a more powerful engine, etc. The T-90 and T-90A are early 1990s upgrades on the T-72B. The T-90M is a 2018 update with the same gun as the T-14, Afganit active protection, Relikt reactive armor, etc.

T-72B3M

Not addressed in the Vedomosti report is what (if anything) the Russian Army plans regarding the future of upgraded T-80BVM tanks. It received an unspecified number in 2017-2019. The Ground Troops often prefer its gas turbine engine over diesel for extreme cold in the Arctic and Eastern MD.

It’s difficult to assess even what happened with tanks in GPV 2011-2020. Putin and the MOD called for 2,300 tanks in 2012 even though Ground Troops procurement wasn’t a priority in that GPV. The naive assumption they’d be new ones soon gave way to realization that all tanks received were ones modernized as described above. Complicating matters further, Russian MOD descriptions of what they actually received typically lump all armor — tanks and armored vehicles — together making it virtually impossible to tell how many upgraded tanks of which type (re-)entered Russia’s forces.

OPK Write-Off

President Vladimir Putin has apparently agreed to a major write-off of Russian defense industry debt. It’s a significant story not receiving much attention.

Putin with VTB chief Kostin in August 2019

Putin with VTB chief Kostin in August 2019

The decision came in a secret presidential ukaz at the end of 2019. VTB chief Andrey Kostin broke the news in a late January interview with Rossiya 24 television at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The most coherent rendering of what Kostin said came from Interfaks-AVN:

Everything’s decided. At the end of last year the President met with all interested parties, the President’s ukaz was received, it’s true it’s secret, therefore I wouldn’t begin to comment on it. [But then he does, at least generally.]

But on the whole the problem’s solved, there is active participation of the [federal] budget and preferential restructuring on the part of leading banks is also provided, but it is so feasible, it is reasonable, it really takes into account, of course, that risk the banks took, therefore on the whole we’re satisfied with this decision. I think the government is too. So the program is being effected. I believe we won’t return to this issue again.

According to Interfaks-AVN in late December, Deputy PM and arms tsar Yuriy Borisov said measures to improve the financial state of key OPK enterprises were worked out and there would be a clearing of loans amounting to 700 billion rubles [$11 billion]. The main troubles, he indicated, were at OAK, OSK, ODK, and Roskosmos.

In early December, Borisov proposed writing off 400-450 billion of the debt and restructuring the remaining 300-350 billion for 15 years with a five-year initial payment holiday and a preferential two percent interest rate, according to a report in Rbc.ru.

Borisov and Russian bankers other than Kostin haven’t commented.

Borisov’s proposal may be the plan contained in Putin’s ukaz, but we don’t know since it’s secret. And it’s most likely secret to keep normally docile Russian citizens from learning that the government is bailing out weapons makers, not them. Russian household debt has increased steadily in recent years with little or no economic growth.

In July, Borisov said Russian defense industry’s large debt load was forcing it to “live hand to mouth, servicing financial institutions that don’t produce anything,” Interfaks-AVN reported. He indicated then that 90 percent of the debt belonged to OAK, OSK, Uralvagonzavod, Almaz-Antey, and Precision Systems (Высокоточные комплексы).

He called for writing off all or part of the debt at that time. But the biggest OPK creditors Sberbank and VTB opposed it.

Yuriy Borisov

Yuriy Borisov

In September, Putin directed then PM Dmitriy Medvedev to investigate problems with the profitability of defense enterprises. This came after the Military-Industrial Commission session in Izhevsk at which Putin blamed “unused capacity during a reduction in order volumes and the requirement to finance development work, the costs of which aren’t included in planning documents.” The president didn’t say anything about contract prices being too low or funding lost to waste or corruption. 

Novaya gazeta reported in July that 700 billion rubles represents non-performing defense industry loans. Total OPK indebtedness, however, is 2.3 trillion rubles ($36 billion). A write-off of 700 billion rubles (or part of this amount) would be a significant hit to the working capital of major Russian banks (and OPK creditors).

Borisov said corporations and enterprises were making only interest payments on the most troubled loans, according to Novgaz. Experts told the paper that more than half of the OPK’s profits are going to debt service leaving most producers with net profits of only 3-4 percent or even losses. Defense enterprises say they are frequently paying 22-23 percent on loans accumulated over many years. Meanwhile, the Russian banking sector is earning record profits.

Based on the recent history of OPK debts, Novgaz concluded the most likely scenario is partial write-off, partial restructuring, and recapitalization of affected banks by the Finance Ministry. Promsvyazbank (PSB) — bankrupt and nationalized in early 2018 — is also being turned into a specialized bank for handling state defense orders and problem loans to the OPK. PSB might insulate healthy parts of the Russian banking sector from bad OPK debt, and possibly from U.S. economic sanctions.

Defense producers say price formation — agreement with the MOD on contract prices — remains a substantial problem, according to the Novgaz report. Its source said:

Everyone is right — both the customer can’t pay a lot, and the contractor can’t operate at a loss. But there’s no arbiter for a compromise, and the customer is always stronger.

This OPK debt write-off is pretty much like earlier ones. It may take care of the most immediate and acute symptoms but it won’t cure the causes of the ailment, including price formation, theft, and cumbersome rules about handling GOZ funds.

What They May Get, 2020

S-350 Vityaz launcher

S-350 Vityaz launcher

In his year-end report, Russian Defense Minister Shoygu not only publicized what the MOD received by way of arms and other equipment in 2019, he also mentioned what the military is supposed to get this year.

According to Shoygu, it will receive:

  • Twenty-two ICBM launchers with RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) and Avangard “hypersonic glide vehicles.” The latter is the long-in-development weapon that will be placed on “dry” SS-19 ICBMs Moscow received from Kyiv in the early 2000s.
  • Six modernized Tu-95MS strategic bombers.
  • The first “series produced” project 955A Borey-A SSBN Knyaz Oleg. (But the very first 955A Borey-A Knyaz Vladimir wasn’t accepted in 2019. It’s now scheduled for delivery during the first quarter of this year.)
  • 565 “modern” (presumably new or modernized) armored vehicles, 436 missile and artillery systems, two battalion sets of Buk-M3 SAMs to round out 11 formations and units. (565 doesn’t go too far — perhaps six motorized rifle regiments, but 436 is a lot — maybe 24 artillery battalions, enough for eight MR brigades.)
  • 106 new and modernized aircraft.
  • Four regimental sets of S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) SAMs.
  • Six battalion sets of Pantsir (SA-22 Greyhound) gun-missile systems.
  • One Kupol early warning satellite (fourth overall).
  • 14 surface combatants of varying size, three submarines, and 18 other vessels. (Not real precise.) One Bal (SSC-6 Sennight) coastal missile system.

Shoygu said the RF Armed Forces will have 70 percent “modern” arms and equipment in 2020, fulfilling the order given by President Putin in 2012.

He also noted that the Defense Ministry signed long-term contracts for 76 Su-57 Felon (PAK FA) fighters (although the first series model crashed) and more than 200 combat helos in 2019. He reported that 22 ships for the “distant ocean zone” are under construction and eight more will be laid down in 2020.

On January 13, Krasnaya zvezda quoted Shoygu saying procurement will be about 1.5 trillion rubles ($25 billion), about the same as 2019, with 68 percent going to purchase new equipment. Nearly 4,000 new armored and other vehicles (i.e. trucks, etc.) will arrive in 2020 along with 1,700 artillery and missile systems. (How does that track with the 436 above?? Perhaps it includes slightly modernized or repaired?)

RIAN offered its own list of what the Russian military is supposed to get this year. It noted that the MOD and OPK signed about 50 contracts in 2019 worth more than 1 trillion rubles of weapons and equipment. Not all for delivery in 2020 of course.

According to the official news agency, the Russian Navy will receive the second project 636.3 Improved Kilo Volkhov for the Pacific Fleet, the second project 677 Lada Kronshtadt also for the Pacific, and the second project 885M Yasen-M Novosibirsk. (But in 2020 the Navy is still awaiting the first Yasen-M Kazan and expects renovated project 949A Belgorod that will carry Moscow’s doomsday torpedoes.) 

Kronshtadt

Kronshtadt

RIAN says the Russian Navy will get its second project 11711 LST Petr Morgunov in the first quarter of the year. The Black Sea Fleet will accept 16 new ships and other vessels. And the Baltic Fleet will be content with catamaran-type hydrographic survey vessels (project 23370).

The Aerospace Forces will acquire new Su-35S fighters, six Mi-28NM helos, S-400 SAMs, and more S-350 Vityaz SAMs. (These initial deliveries are for troop testing and training. Series production of this system is slated for 2021-2027.)

More random notes on 2020:

  • Mil.ru says the Ground Troops in 2020 will get more than 300 tanks and armored vehicles. Its Moscow-based 1st Tank Army will receive more than 250 weapons systems and other pieces of equipment.
  • Interfaks-AVN indicated some will be BMP-3, BMP-2, and BMPT armored vehicles with new unmanned turrets.
  • The Russian Army is supposed to receive 40,000 new AK-12 assault weapons.
  • The VDV’s 76th DShD in Pskov already got a battalion set of BMD-4M and BTR-MDM armored vehicles.
  • The Central MD reports it’ll acquire more than 850 new or modernized items including 19 aircraft, 10 radars, 145 armored vehicles (30 T-72B3M tanks), four battalion sets (two regiments) of S-400 SAMs.
  • Ilyushin had to bounce two of five new Il-76MD-90A transports it couldn’t finish in 2019 to this year.

What They Got, 2019

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s address to the MOD Collegium on December 24 began with de rigueur descriptions of how the U.S. and NATO menace Russia.

Not bothering, of course, to mention that it’s Moscow’s treaty-busting and its invasion of a neighbor that put America back in the intermediate-range missile business and caused Balts and Poles to bulk up their defenses.

Capture

It’s not propaganda of interest here, but rather what Mr. Shoygu claims the Russian military acquired by way of hardware in 2019.

Shoygu said the MOD had the highest level of arms and equipment supplied to its forces in four years — more than 6,500 — which raised the share of “modern” types to 68.2 percent overall. “Modern” arms reached 76 percent and 82 percent respectively in the RVSN and Russia’s nuclear triad specifically.

He added that the first missile regiment outfitted with Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles began combat duty this week. Three RVSN regiments received RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) ICBMs. Peresvet laser defense systems are on-duty with five ICBM divisions.

Shoygu enumerated what the rest of the military got this year:

  • Five modernized strategic bombers
  • Completed testing of Borey-A (pr. 955A) SSBN Knyaz Vladimir [but still not accepted for service]
  • 624 tanks and other armored vehicles
  • 143 airplanes and helicopters
  • 13 satellites, including the third Kupol early warning satellite
  • One submarine [the first pr. 636.3 for the Pacific Fleet Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy]
  • Eight surface ships
  • 17 vessels and support ships
  • Four coastal missile systems
  • 10,000 pieces of comms gear [how does that square with 6,500?]

Not everything can be good, so Defense Minister Shoygu said the serviceability rate of the MOD’s training aircraft is only 58 percent, and new Yak-130 jet trainers only 56 percent. But he claimed the overall rate for MOD equipment is 95 percent. Naturally, it’s a game of what gets counted and what doesn’t.

Listing the military’s accomplishments, Shoygu provided other points of interest.

— In 2019, the Russians held two “systematic” surprise inspections of combat readiness involving military districts, armed services, and service branches. He didn’t say which ones or where.

— The MOD conducted an attestatsiya of contractees to evaluate their competence and suitability. Some were found unfit and separated from the service.

— An old problem from the early 2010s is nearly resolved. Housing has been provided for some 61,000 officers who lacked a duty post but couldn’t be retired until they got apartments legally due to them. Only 47 officers in this situation remain to be housed.

— The LRA conducted 48 strategic bomber flights in 2019.

— Russian aircraft sorties in Syria are down to 2-3 per day now. In 2015-2017, there were 80-90 combat flights daily.

— Russian forces have now tested 359 “modern” weapons and equipment items in Syria.

In conclusion, Defense Minister Shoygu said the Russian Armed Forces fulfilled all assigned missions in 2019, and increased their combat potential by 14 percent.

Wouldn’t we love to see the formula used to determine that.

Russia’s Second Best Protected City

St. Petersburg is probably now Russia’s second best protected city in terms of air defense (as common sense would dictate).

Interfaks-AVN reported today that another regiment of the Western MD’s 2nd Air Defense Division in Leningrad oblast has completed training with the S-400 to include combat firings against Favorit targets (the 5V55 missile from the S-300P system).

S-400 deployments in the 2nd ADD

S-400 deployments in the 2nd ADD

The regiment, likely the 1489th SAM Regiment, has returned to its home base of Vaganovo ENE of StP. It’s supposed to begin combat duty in February 2020, according to Interfaks-AVN.

The 500th SAM Regiment at Gostilitsy WSW of StP got its S-400s in 2015. The 1488th at Zelenogorsk NW of StP in 2016, the 1490th at Ulyanovka SE of StP probably in 2017, and the 1544th at Vladimirskiy Lager (but launch battalions split between Luga and Strugi Krasnyye) S of StP in 2018.

So not only is the 2nd ADD now all S-400, it’s also a five-regiment SAM division.

Here’s a handy reference to S-400 deployments (which have been difficult to keep up on). No wonder Mr. Putin wants to unplug the Internet and get rid of ru.wikipedia.org.

Motovilikha’s Year

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

In September, we checked in on Motovilikha and its contract to produce 20 Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems for the Russian MOD in 2020. Today it put out a press-release detailing its completion of state defense order work for 2019.

The enterprises of Motovilikhinskiye Plants put out more than 70 pieces of tube and rocket artillery, and spares for the MOD this year. Work on GOZ contracts finished last week.

Motovilikha subsidiary ZAO Special Design Bureau (SKB) repaired more than 30 2A65 Msta-B 152-mm towed howitzers and 2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers, and carried out capital repair and modernization of about 20 Grad MLRS updating them to Tornado-G systems.

Msta-B towed howitzers leaving the plant.PNG

Msta-B 152-mm towed howtizers leaving the plant

Quoting Motovilikhinskiye Plants director Aleksandr Anokhin, the press-release reported the volume of GOZ work will increase “substantially” in 2020.

The item notes that Motovilikha is the developer and only producer of Grad and Smerch MLRS, modified Tornado-G and Tornado-S systems, and associated reload vehicles. It produces 2S23 Nona-SVK and 2S31 Vena 120-mm self-propelled guns, the towed Msta-B, 2B23 Nona-M1 120-mm towed mortar, and other artillery systems.

Interestingly, the end of the press-release added that:

State corporation Rostekh, OOO RT-Kapital specifically, is currently implementing a systematic anti-crisis program in connection with the Motovilikhinskiye Plants group of enterprises which aims to preserve and develop their fundamental productive competencies in their existing facilities.

So despite the year just ending, Motovilikha is experiencing a crisis. But owner Rostekh wants to keep it operating in Perm. Beyond that, who knows. RT-Kapital is a branch of the conglomerate that works with “problem” equity and consolidates and restructures debt.

Cold War Sans CoCom

TMX-4000

Russia’s Kovrov Electromechanical Plant (KEMZ) is set to begin producing licensed copies of Takisawa’s TMX-4000 five-axis digital milling machine. KEMZ and Japan’s Takisawa have a contract for joint production of six machines before the end of 2021. The first is due in April 2020 and will be exhibited at Metal Working-2020 in Moscow in May.

According to a November 8 press release:

The transition to new generation digital equipment will substantially increase the volume of high technology civilian products. At KEMZ we are beginning to produce five-axis milling centers which have not been manufactured in Russia until now. One of these centers can replace several three-coordinate lathes and reduce the production cycle by several times. Potential buyers — Rostekh’s manufacturing enterprises and companies of the shipbuilding and oil processing sectors — are already interested in the model.

The advanced milling machine is designed to make complex parts for, inter alia, aircraft engines, hydraulic systems, and nuclear reactors with 5-micron accuracy. Only seven companies in the world can make such a machine, according to the press statement.

KEMZ and Takisawa have collaborated since 2013, producing six models of machine tools jointly and more than 30 modifications to systems now produced locally in the Russian Federation.

The TMX-4000 and other, essentially foreign, CNC milling systems will make much more than “high technology civilian products.” KEMZ belongs to Russian government-owned NPO Precision Systems (Высокоточные комплексы) which holds companies producing:

  • a wide variety of small arms and ammunition
  • grenade launchers
  • anti-tank missile systems
  • laser-guided munitions
  • aircraft- and helicopter-mounted guns and cannons
  • naval close-in weapons systems
  • Bakhcha and Berezhok turrets for armored vehicles
  • Arena and Drozd active armor defense systems
  • Pantsir-S1 gun-missile systems
  • Strela-10 and Igla-S SAM systems
  • Iskander-M SRBMs

One of Precision Systems’ main holdings — KBP — has been under U.S. DOT OFAC sanctions since 2014.

Precision Systems is controlled by government-owned conglomerate Rostekh which is also under U.S. sanctions.

Technology export controls and sanctions aimed at the Kremlin are an old story. They are difficult to manage. They threaten to punish allied countries and companies for doing business with Moscow in order to deter that activity and deprive Russia of commerce. They become as much a bone of contention among allies as a tool against an adversary.

During the Cold War, U.S. leadership was strong and CoCom prevented some strategic exports to the USSR. But that system, such as it was, also failed infamously.

In 1983-1984, Japan’s Toshiba sold the Russians sophisticated milling machines and Norway’s Kongsberg gave the Kremlin the computer and software needed to make more sophisticated propellers that eventually quieted its Improved Akula SSN and fourth-generation nuclear-powered submarines.

In 1987, the CIA assessed the damage like this:

Capture

But even with its massive purloining of Western technology in the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet Union lost the Cold War. It proved incapable of exploiting the equipment and knowledge it stole. They didn’t help Moscow fix the enormous social and economic problems that doomed the CPSU and USSR in 1991.

In today’s Cold War redux, there’s little U.S. leadership, no CoCom, and a plethora of places Russia can get technology it needs and can’t produce. Now it’s buying the right to manufacture the same equipment it obtained surreptitiously nearly 40 years ago. It hasn’t fixed an economic system that struggles even to copy things.

It looked like post-Soviet Russia might join the Western community nations after the end of the First Cold War. It benefited from economic and technological cooperation and collaboration it could never imagine. As the Second Cold War unfolded, Russia largely retained that benefit despite sanctions. That benefit has been put to work in Mr. Putin’s arms buildup, in the development and production of more sophisticated weapons systems. The TMX-4000 and other machinery might be used to make an Iskander-MS (S for improved) that is on the Russian MOD’s agenda, or PAK DA, or Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, etc.

For its part, Japan only symbolically joined in sanctions against Russia following its 2014 invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Tokyo has kept its relations with Moscow on track in its (probably futile) pursuit of the Northern Territories and a peace treaty to end World War II. The Japanese also balance between Russia and China in the (probably vain) hope that the two great powers won’t get too close at their expense.

But all this is neither here nor there because, under other circumstances, it might have been a different allied country working with KEMZ or some other Russian firm.

Russia will get the technology it wants from other countries somehow, some way. The past shows that. But it’s far from certain, again based on history, that Russia can do what it wants with that technology successfully.